This year I became the first Writer in Residence at Grow Hackney. It’s a vital hub of arts and culture but you might not realise how it contributes to Hackney Wick in other ways. You’ll find sustainability initiatives here, art made from waste and even a way into physical activity that promotes good mental health. Pete is a champion of the arts, as you’ll know from the many live events Grow has hosted during the pandemic, but here he tells how he found himself teaching climbing for wellbeing:
“In 1989 I came to Hackney and lived at Stoke Newington while I studied an MA art course at Chelsea. I ended up in Clapton and worked at the pioneering Homerton mental health charity Core Arts. That was brilliant and at the time I was also climbing professionally as a tree surgeon.
When I moved to Hackney Wick, the place that I was living at changed from a club to a bouldering centre. I’d had a family bereavement that took up time and my energy and I noticed that a lot of people who were climbing said it improved their mental health. It just clicked; I decided I was going to be a climbing instructor.
After some research I thought it would be really beneficial to teach bouldering to people with mild to severe mental health issues. I wanted to combine my experience in that field with my climbing skills, to help people manage their wellbeing. You see a problem and you want to fix it.
With Jack and Josh, who set up Hackney Wick Boulder Project [link], I put the two things together. We set up Climbing for Wellbeing where we teach any level climber for free. It’s either 1:1 or 1:2 depending on what they want or the conditions we’re working under, like Covid.
It’s funded by local authorities and the Wick Award who gave some money to our pilot. It’s a great idea and of course I’m not the only person doing it; lots of climbers know the benefits it brings. Since we set it up, the medical profession recognises it boosts self confidence, physical fitness, mindfulness and social interaction.
I must have taught 100 people so far from local boroughs – of all ages and abilities – and I’ve had positive feedback from all of them. A good part of my job at Core Arts was about breaking down the stigma that’s sometimes attached to mental health issues, but I think there isn’t a person in the world without them.
Climbing ticks every box and we’ve started the sessions again. So if you want to do it, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve enjoyed this, check out the other Hackney Changemakers posts or come for a walk with me in the Wick on the Hackney Wick Culture Jam and get some of this inspiration yourself. You can also hire me for private tours and for social enterprise and sustainability tours in Hackney Wick and Dalston.
See you at the Grow Hackney Future Fair Sat 3 & 31 Jul, 4 Sep, 2 Oct!